LIKE most of the members University of the Philippines community, former Maroon Jett Manuel is also upbeat about the team’s chances of finally reaching the Final Four in the UAAP after recruiting big names recently.
The Maroons have seen the influx of blue-chip recruits in Juan Gomez de Liano, Javi Gomez de Liano, and Bright Akhuetie, one of the top foreign players in the NCAA in recent years and will now be playing for State U in Season 81.
After also getting Ricci Rivero following his stint with La Salle, UP pulled off another coup when the Maroons were able to recruit former NCAA Division I cager Kobe Paras to beef up the roster.
Paras and Rivero, former teammates with La Salle Greenhills, will be playing for the Maroons in Season 82 after undergoing a one-year residency.
Seeing the talent that has bolstered UP, Manuel said the Maroons now have the pieces to make a Final Four run, something that has not happened since 1997.
“No doubt, we have the talent and the players that can reach that goal,” said Manuel.
The final years of Manuel’s career with UP saw the emergence of the Maroons from a cellar-dweller to Final Four contender. In Season 79, however, his final season with the team, UP fell a game short of moving to the next round.
Although he is now with Barangay Ginebra in the PBA, Manuel is still happy to have a contribution to head coach Bo Perasol’s goal of bringing excitement to the UP community that has led to the influx of new recruits years after his playing days with the Maroons are done.
“Exciting times for the UP program. Happy ako na may napupuntahan ‘yung goal na simulan na ‘yung direction ng program is moving forward. There is a lot of talent na sa UP. Siguro ‘yung naging role ko with UP, of course, I want to experience the Final Four but more than that, ‘yung role ko is to start something na UP can follow.
“I talked to coach Bo (Perasol) about it before. Happy ako na may na-give back ako. Sana tuluy-tuloy na,” Manuel said.
Even with the amount of talent UP has, Manuel said the Maroons still need to stay grounded and not rely too much on talent alone.
“They should be grounded especially in the UAAP. You can’t think na when you have the talent, you can instantly win. I hope they come together, lead the team, and listen to coach Bo and what he is teaching to the team,” said Manuel.